By Joan Green
When young children with special needs go to school, the family and school representatives get together to create an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) that includes the student’s educational goals for the coming year. Since learning happens all the time, in all environments, families can help their child at home and in the community by being aware of the goals and creating opportunities for practice.
Yong children with special needs often have similar goals, for example: matching, identifying, labeling, sorting, counting, categorizing, colors, numbers, letters, shapes, sounds, and fine/gross motor and social skills. There are many activities that incorporate a variety of educational goals within them. When playing with their child, parents are often reinforcing their child’s IEP goals and may not even realize the value and importance of what they are doing.
Listed below are just a few simple ideas, sample goals, and possible activities that families can do at home and in the community to help their child reach their goals.
Music: Practice skills by singing songs about what you are learning. Body parts: song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Make up songs, “Old McDonald Had a Zoo” etc.
Goal Card: In order to actually be aware of what a child’s goals are, it is helpful for goals to be visible. Make a 5”x7” card with the child’s goals on it and put it on the fridge. Glance at it regularly.
Plan of Action: Look at the child’s goals. How do their needs fit logically into normal daily activities? Make a list of the goals and corresponding activities. Now there is a plan.
Favorite Things and Themes: Favorites can be incorporated into activities. (Ex. If he likes cars, then he can count them, sort them, paint them, build garages, write/read or draw stories about them, learn safety signs, add and subtract them etc.)
Sample Goals and Activities:
- Sorting—socks and shoes (match, identify, label, categorize, color, size)
- Increasing time on task (use timers, water, sand, kitchen, alarm clock)
- Following Routine (provide visual schedules, word and/or objects)
- Increasing expressive language (make box of items that begin or end in sounds identified in IEP) (Ex. Beginning sound “B”—book, bear, button, baby bottle; ending sound “T”—coat, hat, bat, mit)
- Rote counting—count out silverware while putting it away
- Number concepts—cooking (give me one cup of water, two eggs)
- Self-help—dressing skills (pull up own pants, zip up own jacket, play dress up)
- Categorize—clean up (shoes go in bottom of closet, socks in drawer)
- Sensory—outside (if too excited, push slowly in swing; if low-energy, put on up-tempo music, play chase)
- Parking lot
- more/less (people or cars)
- counting (number of trucks)
- transitioning (transition items to take with, items to show where they are going, visual schedule)
- safety (looking for crosswalks, watching out for cars, identifying safety signs)
- Grocery store
- colors (find green vegetables in grocery store)
- categorizing (banana/fruit, green beans/vegetables)
- counting (put four tomatoes in the bag)
- identify (“get the peanut butter for me”)
- label (“what did you pick out?”)
- big/little (pick out a big apple and a little apple)
- counting (number of people in line)
- social skills with teller (answering question, “What’s your name?” “How old are you?”)
- waiting—praise waiting, find items in environment to identify
- self-help—teach how to communicate need to go to the bathroom when in public
- label—items in stores
- sensory—touching textures, tolerating crowds, noise
All children benefit when everyone works together to create opportunities for learning. On behalf of the children, thank you for your efforts. To help children address IEP goals at home or in your classroom you can also utilize Interactive Reading Books, all based on IEP Goals, by Joan Green.
Joan Green currently runs Greenhouse Tutoring Center for Young Children with Special Needs. She was a special education teacher in the Los Angeles school system for 16 years and was awarded Special Education Teacher of the Year. She served as a member of their Autism Task Force and co-authored a certification of competency for teaching children with autism. As an educational consultant she is frequently called upon as a guest speaker for national organizations. Joan developed many teaching aids over the course of her classroom experience and is a member of the National Autism Resources advisory board.